Kim and I went down to the bar that first night in Monument. We were exhausted but had been given a food voucher, and a warm meal sounded great after a day of travel. We sat down intending only to grab a sandwich and a beer, but we had walked into karaoke night and two guys sat down and introduced themselves.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm not the greatest in loud social situations, especially involving drunks. Kim, on the other hand, is a social butterfly (one of the few ways we differ as friends). So we wound up spending the evening with Nate and Travis, two really nice guys who also weren't there to booze it up but rather to indulge Travis' newfound passion. They had a pretty funny story actually - they were two guys who happened to attend the same MeetUp event a few months earlier, and while their dalliances with women hadn't played out the best, they became friends. Travis was fairly recently divorced and had discovered a passion for karaoke, and while Nate was not a singer, he was more than happy to play wingman for the new vocalist.
They were hilarious, and you can imagine it didn't take long for Kim to offer that her friend Manda was a singer as well. Travis practically jumped out of his skin with excitement, and I would have broken his heart if I hadn't agreed to sing with him. I heard myself agreeing to perform Eminem and Rihanna's, "Love the Way You Lie;" Travis put us on the list and returned to ask, "Are you nervous?!?" I thought I ought to be but with no lack of surprise and curiosity I answered, "Actually, not at all." Both the guys looked surprised and impressed and Travis said, "Wow. I can't wait for this!"
I'm used to the reaction after 27 years of singing on a stage, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a thrill when as soon as I opened my mouth, the room dropped in volume and nearly every head in the place turned to gape at the stage. After Travis picked his jaw up off the ground, he absolutely threw down, earning us a standing ovation. Mistakes and all, it was so fun.
Much as I might try to ignore it, music has been making its way back into my life. I have been feeling the pull to sing for people again since I attended Woodland Hills five or so years ago. I heard God at the time absolutely convicting me to get involved, but I wasn't ready to act.
Then Sharon got sick, and when I couldn't sing for her on the oncology unit, I recorded a CD for her. I performed at her fundraiser with no hesitation. And then, four years later, a year ago next week, I sang straight from my soul to hers at the funeral.
Then, I went back to school last fall for grad school prereqs. I did a double take when my professor walked into the room at Century; I knew him from somewhere. It bugged me enough that I actually sat down with my photo albums one evening, searching for the familiar face. And there he was, Paul from the Madrigal Dinner Ensemble at St. Kate's back in 1996 and 1997. We had dressed up in Renaissance costume to sing in Old English, dance between the tables, and ham it up for the crowd back in the day. And now, 16 years later, Mr. Dykes was my professor. We both got a good laugh at the photo I brought into class the next day.
Moving to spring semester, Dr. J mentioned an undergrad music major. Again, and 17 years ago this time, our paths had likely crossed at Luther College during music festivals, and I was given to remember the days when music was my existence. It was just "what I did," just like the ambulance service is "what I do" now. All the reknown choral directors, the festivals, awards, scholarships, and experiences. So fun to talk a little music with someone who also had that life.
I used to be so self-conscious, intimidated, and driven by absolute perfection that I couldn't be comfortable with the idea of music as my career. To get on stage and be that vulnerable, to open myself up to that kind of potential judgment, to give strangers an offering of my heart, began to send me into panic. Somehow, over recent years, friends have come into my life who perform in church, in chorales, who own music publishing companies, who work in the industry in either production or performance - and I actually feel that I can still relate to them although I've not performed for over a decade. At some point, and definitely by the time I was asked to sing at Grandpa's memorial. Somehow, I've become unconcerned with the expected mistakes (which no one notices anyway if you're a good artist) or if I shed a tear; I'd now rather offer a performance that is real rather than perfect. Though at times still uncomfortable, I'm willing finally to be big (to own my skill), to be loud (to be heard), to be looked at (to be seen), to put everything inside of me out there for the world to see (to be vulnerable).
Maybe it's as simple as...I like me now. I'll let you see me.
It's not easy to own the capacity to move people to tears, to take their breath away, to gift them comfort during the most excruciating moments of life and dying. That kind of power is terrifying: to stand on a stage and feel all that attention and pressure upon you, to publicly command a group of strangers into their own hearts and to invite them to share in mine. I've lived my life thinking my heart didn't matter, but thank God, I've never lost it, not really. Music has sustained me, and you can ignore the little nudges and pushes for a while, but eventually you have to wake up. Grad school didn't pan out this year but this thread still running through my life refuses to be further neglected. I hesitate, but I simply must wonder, what on earth would the Universe would have me do with this?
“Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke